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USDA searching for settlement class members

January 07, 1999
A major advertising campaign will kick off soon to locate black farmers who may be eligible to join a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Agriculture Department.
      Attorneys announced late Tuesday that a settlement had been reached in the 1997 racial discrimination lawsuit, ending more than two years of sometimes-contentious negotiations. Black farmers sued because they were denied access to government loans and subsidies.
      A federal judge gave preliminary approval to the deal, which covers black farmers from 1981 to 1996. Final approval is expected at a hearing on March 2.

Federal agency finds sex bias at Texaco

January 06, 1999
A federal agency has found that TexacoInc., which reached a landmark settlement with black employees in 1997,underpaid some women at offices around the country between 1993 and1996.
      The company, without admitting any violations, has agreed to pay $3.1million to the 186 women, who held managerial and support jobs at its WhitePlains headquarters and elsewhere, company spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew said today. The number is 2 percent of Texaco's female employees.
      The agreement is the largest resulting from an audit by the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which monitors affirmative action at companies that do business with the government.

NBC, NAACP set initiatives

January 05, 1999
NBC and the NAACP are set to unveil a series of initiatives Wednesday morning regarding minority hiring and onscreen representation.
    Details of the initiatives were still hazy as of Tuesday afternoon, but the agreements include heightened efforts to include minorities in key roles on primetime series, as well as new programs to bolster the number of minorities on the network's employment rosters.
    NBC president Bob Wright, NBC West Coast president Scott Sassa and National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People chief Kweisi Mfume will outline the network's endeavors at Wednesday's press conference in New York.
    ``In the past you've heard a lot of rhetoric from the networks,'' one network insider said. ``This is a conscious effort to move beyond the rhetoric and do something concrete.'' 

Mentally ill seeking help thwarted in AZ

January 03, 1999
Fewer and fewer people in the Valley are entering the state's mental health system under the category of "seriously mentally ill."
    A crackdown in eligibility by state officials is swamping mental health advocates -- paid by the state to police the system -- and forcing advocates to turn people away, a possible violation of state law.
    Under an increasingly rigid process, even people ordered by Superior Court judges to be hospitalized or treated are not being considered seriously mentally ill, or SMI.

Death penalty sought for Shepard suspects

December 29, 1998
Prosecutors said today that they will seek the death penalty against the two men accused in the beating death of a gay University of Wyoming student.
     Aaron James McKinney and Russell Arthur Henderson, both 21, are accused of luring Matthew Shepard, also 21, out of a downtown bar. Police say the two robbed and pistol-whipped the 105-pound freshman, tied him to a log fence and beat him into unconsciousness. Shepard died five days later, on October 12.
     Prosecutor Cal Rerucha declined to comment on the death penalty plan. His intention to seek it was filed in court papers late this afternoon.

Homeless man prompts shelter's AIDS policy

December 26, 1998
It's been a tough year for Patrick Biggers since he was evicted from a homeless shelter in Ellsworth two days before Christmas 1997 because he had the AIDS virus.
     A chef who worked at some of the nation's finest restaurants, Biggers, 36, remains homeless, has not found work and underwent triple bypass surgery three months ago.
     But he takes comfort in knowing that something good emerged this month from his ordeal: a policy to promote AIDS awareness that he hopes might become a model for shelters across the country. 

HUD program to fund 59,000 new home loans

December 24, 1998
Ginnie Mae today announced that an initiative that encourages lenders to provide mortgage loans to underserved central city neighborhoods to boost homeownership helped provide $5.3 billion in financing for 59,108 new loans in the 1997 and 1998 fiscal years.
     Ginnie Mae is a wholly-owned government corporation within the Department of Housing and Urban Development that supports federal housing initiatives by providing liquidity to the secondary mortgage market and by attracting capital to the residential mortgage markets. Ginnie Mae programs help increase the supply of affordable housing by guaranteeing securities issued by private lenders backed by pools of residential mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (which is part of HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Rural Housing Service.
     The Targeted Lending Initiative was launched during 1996 with the goal of producing $1 billion of new lending and 15,000 new homeowners in targeted areas each year.

HUD probe violated speech rights, judge says

December 24, 1998
Federal housing officials in San Francisco illegally investigated critics of a proposed low-income housing project and may be personally responsible for damages, says a federal judge.
     The Department of Housing and Urban Development investigation, which included a statement that the critics could be subject to $100,000 in penalties for housing law violations, "chilled [ their ] right to free speech and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances," said Chief U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel.
     The San Francisco HUD office concluded that the three critics who sued to block the project had violated a federal housing discrimination law, but that finding was rejected by HUD's national office.

Census chief plans count amid party bickering

December 17, 1998
"Let us imagine," said Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt, "there were no politics at all . . ."
     He has something of a wistful look on his face as he describes this scenario, a politics-free zone around his foremost assignment in his new job, planning the 2000 Census. He imagines a census designed and executed by professional statisticians, without political hoopla and interference. "That would be marvelous."
     But that, he knows, isn't going to happen.
     In fact, Prewitt, who was sworn in last month, is taking on one of the most politically encumbered jobs in Washington, planning the next census in the midst of a bitter battle between Republicans and Democrats over how it should be conducted. His predecessor quit in part because of the bruising climate. And now, Prewitt enters when the issue is at the top of both party's agendas and pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will likely rule on the matter early next year. 

Hotel chain settles disability probe with DOJ

December 17, 1998
Three hotel chains are under investigation by the Justice Department over complaints by disabled customers like those that led Holiday Inns to agree to provide guaranteed reservations and mediation of disputes for the disabled.
     A groundbreaking agreement between the department and the nearly 2,000 hotels in the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza chains was announced Wednesday by acting Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee and executives of Bass Hotels & Resorts, an Atlanta-based subsidiary of the British firm Bass PLC, which owns, operates or franchises the hotels.
     ``Travelers with disabilities will be able to make reservations for rooms, instead of having reservations about whether the room will be there,'' Lee said at a news conference.
     Disabled people had complained that accessible rooms reserved in advance were not available when they got to the hotel. ``They were giving guarantees, but the guarantees weren't any good,'' said John Wodatch, chief of the disability rights section. 

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